March is Women's History Month and conversations surrounding the history of women and trans+ femme rights wouldn't be complete without discussing the stigma and discrimination of the sex work industry. Sex work has often been considered "the oldest profession" and has been an active profession (legal or not) for centuries. Despite its active part of our communities, sex work has continuously been seen through a negative lens claiming sex workers have no agency and only do the work because they've been manipulated or coerced against their will. While there are absolutely dangerous situations in sex work—and sex trafficking is a real issue—it's time to see sex work for what it really is: a job.
Sex work is also an active area of research and scholarly discourse, particularly within gender and sexuality studies. This guide helps illuminate and contextualize the many cultural, critical, and scholarly threads surrounding sex workers and their experiences, exploring different perspectives of sex work and how to change the narrative of sex work to be more explicitly feminist and equitable.
A group of sex workers share the most challenging aspects of their jobs. (2021)
Sex Work Organizations & Networks:
Resources for Further Exploration:
If you'd like to engage more deeply with Women's History Month, units across the Libraries have created a number of interrelated resources and features to provide more holistic coverage of this commemoration. You'll find those, below:
Journals to Explore:
Throughout history, communities of disabled, neurodiverse, crip, and sick people have been overlooked and oversimplified in academic conversations. Disability activism and political movements carved out a space for addressing ableism in research and academia; as a result, disability studies has emerged. Disability studies is an interdisciplinary field that explores disabled identities in the humanities and social sciences. For this spotlight on disability studies, we include neurodiverse, crip, and sick identities in our definition of disability.
To read more about disability language and the use of "crip," enjoy this article by Dean Strauss: "Queer Crips: Reclaiming Language," and Brittany Wong's Huffington Post article "It's Perfectly OK to call a Disabled Person 'Disabled,' And Here's Why."
We also recommend the following resources that helped with this feature:
Resources for Further Exploration
A selection of articles, online compilations, and other resources relevant to disability studies
The following features also cover topics of disability studies:
Image Description: A group of activists, including Judy Heumann (center, with yellow stockings) protest for the enforcement of Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, in April of 1977. Later that month, the protesters would occupy a federal building in San Francisco in protest in a sit-in that lasted more than 25 days. Photo by Wally McNamee / CORBIS / via Getty Images
Poetry often touches the core of our complex and intersecting identities as human beings. From the outset of recorded history the identities embodied in poems are often those of marginalized groups. This is certainly true with regard to queer poets. From classical poets like Sappho to luminaries of literary modernism like Hart Crane to contemporary poets like Ocean Vuong, queer experience and desire is an undeniable presence in the poetry and poetics of the global canon. Here below is just a small sampling of poetry from queer poets from a variety of backgrounds and intersectionalities.
Resources for Further Exploration
A selection of articles, online compilations, and other resources relevant to queer poetry & poetics
If you'd like to engage more deeply with National Poetry Month, the IU Libraries Arts & Humanities department has put together a number of features and guides to showcase our holdings relevant to this month-long celebration of poetry. You'll find those, below:
Anthologies of poems by queer poets
Works by queer poets exploring queerness, from across time
Selection of texts from our catalog with an emphasis on queerness and poetry
Selection of scholarly articles from journals in our holdings
Episodes of podcasts featuring queer poets
Audio readings of poems by queer poets
Text and video interviews with queer poets
Queer poetry collections, available freely online
Consensual non-monogamy is an umbrella term used to describe any agreed-upon romantic/sexual relationship that falls outside of the exclusive, dyadic (two-person) structure of monogamy, including polyamory and open relationships. Though non-monogamous relationships have gained greater contemporary visibility, it has existed in many and various forms across history. This guide provides an introduction to both scholarly and popular resources for those wishing to learn more about consensual non-monogamy.
Selection of online archives and other resources, which can be used to find further information on this topic
Black LGBTQ+ poets write from the intersections of Black and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer identities and experiences. Black LGBTQ+ poets explore issues of gender expression and discrimination, love, sex, sexuality, desire, culture, race, and more through their creative work. Due to compounding oppressions, the history of Black LGBTQ+ poetry and poetics has not been given adequate attention by scholars or mainstream audiences. What follows is a list of poetry books by Black LGBTQ+ poets, anthologies of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) poets who are LGBTQ+, and scholarly articles on the topic, in celebration of Black History Month. We have also included a very brief introduction to African American poetry and recommendations for further reading on that subject.
Poet Danez Smith reading "Genesissy" for Button Poetry, 2015
As with many of these national commemorations, one month is never enough time to fully honor and celebrate the history and culture of marginalized communities, let alone heal the legacies (and ongoing reality) of harm they've experienced. We recognize that there is much more to be done, that racism and anti-blackness can't be eliminated simply through the creation of resource guides, and that the work of realizing justice won't soon be over. But nevertheless, we keep trying, contributing how we can and building upon the efforts of those who came before us, and we continue to learn from and with one another.
If you'd like to engage more deeply with Black History Month, the IU Libraries Arts & Humanities department has created a number of interrelated resources and features to provide more holistic coverage of this remembering. You'll find those, below:
And for all things Black culture, you can never go wrong with the resources, services, and collections of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center Library.
A very brief introduction to the African American / Black Poetic Tradition
African American poetry predates the written word and has its roots in a rich oral tradition. shares sonic qualities with Black musical forms like gospel, jazz, blues, hip-hop, and rap, and includes a rich array of poetic sound devices: alliteration, rhyme, anaphora (the repetition of lines or fragments), to name a few. Black Poetry can be about any theme or subject, but the Black experience is often at the center of Black Poetry, which is informed by the distinctiveness of Black culture. Black Poets often unpack and critiques the systemic oppressions and individual discriminations that they, as Black Americans, have endured, like slavery, segregation, and police brutality. Notable writers and movements in Black Poetry are described in the Power of Poetry series of blog posts from the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Critics and supporters of the distinction between African American and American literature abound. The positions of each side are outlined in this wikipedia article on the subject.
This page provides suggested resources (books, video & film, articles & databases) relevant to Two-Spirit Identity and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual (LGBTQIA) Indigenous Identity.
The term Two-Spirit (2S, 2Spirit, Two Spirit, Twospirited) was coined in 1990 at the Indigenous lesbian and gay international gathering in Winnipeg. The term is a pan-Indian, umbrella term used by a number of Indigenous Native Americans to describe Native Peoples who fulfill traditional third-gender or variant-gender roles in their communities and cultures. The term is generally accepted but faces controversy from critics who consider it as reinforcing western notions of binary gender or attempting to erase terms that already exist in traditional communities for gender-variant members.
Acceptance, treatment, status, and rights of LGBTQIA Indigenous peoples and Two-Spirit individuals have varied historically. Contemporary understandings of Two-Spirit identity and what it means to be Indigenous and LGBTQIA vary greatly from tribe to tribe. We hope the resources collected in these pages will help readers gain a nuanced understanding of Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA Indigenous Identity.
In his talk, Nick Metcalf gives insight into his experiences being a two spirit, and explains why gender fluidity is necessary in today’s world.
About the Playlist
This mix features two-spirit and other Indigenous LGBTQIA and nonbinary/transgender artists from across Turtle Island, as well as other parts of the world. A work in progress, we welcome suggestions for artists from these groups for inclusion.
Note: To enjoy the playlist in full, click on the white Spotify icon in the upper-right corner of the playlist, and press the "like" (♡) button in the application to save.
To learn more about the artists and communities represented in this playlist, check out some of the resources we consulted:
Further Reading & Resources
If you'd like to learn more about this month-long celebration of Indigenous communities and identity, we've created a guide with list of resources, as well as a playlist featuring Indigenous musicians, on the Media Studies Research Guide. There is also an overview of Indigenous Philosophy on the Philosophy Research Guide.
For more information about the Indigenous communities with ongoing and traditional ties to this land, and how to support Indigenous groups and movements, take a look at our Land Acknowledgment and Local Indigenous Resources guide.
"In this series for News Talk Radio's Meeting Ground we take the journey of indigenous gender identity tracing gender diverse First Nations people (or Two-Spirit) through their lives pre contact and then after residential schools. We learn what that journey means for the future of Two-Spirit people on Turtle Island today." – Kelly Malone
"In this webinar, three indigenous community leaders discuss their work and how it benefits the communities in which they live. They focus on how their identity as Two Spirits has influenced their activism, art, scholarly work, and vision. The webinar is presented by Rep. Susan Allen, LaDonna BlueEye, and Isaiah Brokenleg, and moderated by Sharon M. Day." - SAMHSA
Other Online Videos
Two-Spirit and Indigenous LGBTQIA Drag Artists
Selected Scholarly Articles
Hames-García, M. (2013). What's After Queer Theory? Queer Ethnic and Indigenous Studies. Feminist Studies 39(2), pp. 384-404
Robinson, M. (2020). Two-Spirit Identity in a Time of Gender Fluidity. Journal of Homosexuality, vol. 67, no. 12, pp. 1675–1690.
Robinson, M. (2017). Two-Spirit and Bisexual People: Different Umbrella, Same Rain. Journal of Bisexuality, 17(1), 7–29.
Morgensen, S. L. (2011). Unsettling Queer Politics: What Can Non-Natives Learn from Two-Spirit Organizing? In Q.-L. Driskill, C. Finley, B. J. Gilley, & S. L. Morgensen (Eds.), Queer Indigenous Studies: Critical Interventions in Theory, Politics, and Literature (pp. 132–152).
Lang, S. (2016). Native American men-women, lesbians, two-spirits: Contemporary and historical perspectives. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 20(3/4), 299–323.
Kongerslev, Marianne. (2018). Dance to the Two-Spirit. Mythologizations of the Queer Native. Kvinder, Køn & Forskning, 27(4).
Greensmith, C., & Giwa, S. (2013). Challenging Settler Colonialism in Contemporary Queer Politics: Settler Homonationalism, Pride Toronto, and Two-Spirit Subjectivities. American Indian Culture & Research Journal, 37(2), 129–148.
Suggested Keywords for database searches relating to Two-Spirit and queer Indigenous* identity:
*while there is some overlap and commonalities in understandings of gender and sexuality across groups, when doing research relevant to Indigenous identities, it is always best practice to search using the names of individual tribes, nations, and communities when possible
POC (people of color)
BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color)
Two-spirit (sometimes "two spirit", "two spirited" or "two-spirited")
Selection of resources freely available online
Lists of Resources & Readings
Lists of recommended titles from online sources
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
All three major Academic Style Guides (APA, the Chicago Manual of Style, and MLA) agree that a person’s correct personal pronouns (they, he, she, etc.) should be respected and used at all times in formal and academic writing. It is not possible to infer a person’s pronouns just by looking at them. To determine the pronouns of someone you are writing about, refer to their biography, or if possible, ask them what personal pronouns they use. If their personal pronouns are unknown or cannot be determined, using singular “they” may be the solution, if you are writing in APA or MLA. For those using Chicago, the guide recommends rewriting the text in a way that does not require using personal pronouns (Chicago, 5.255). Always take care in your writing to use the correct personal pronouns. Never assume a person’s pronouns when writing about them.
In English, personal pronouns are gendered. Historically, English offers only three personal pronouns: masculine (he), feminine (she), and the un-gendered “it” (which is widely seen as rude or disrespectful to use when referring to a person). These few personal pronouns do not adequately express the variety of gender expressions that have been present throughout history. Grammar is not static, but changes over time, adapting to, reflecting and perpetuating biases and social constructs present in the culture. Many people have been excluded by this rigid and artificial binary representation of gender codified in the English language and have had to find or create alternatives to identify themselves in speech and writing.
Below is a chart that lists some of the most commonly used personal pronouns and gives examples for how to use them.
|Nominative (subject)||Objective (object)||Possessive determiner||Possessive pronoun||Reflexive|
|He||He laughed||I called him||His dog barks||That is his||He likes himself|
|I called her||Her dog barks||That is hers||She likes herself|
|They||They laughed||I called them||Their dog barks||That is theirs||They like themself|
|Per||Per laughed||I called per||Per dog barks||That is pers||Per likes perself|
|Ze laughed||I called hir||Hir dog barks||That is hirs||Ze likes hirself|
Academic style guides agree on the importance of achieving gender-neutral writing, and the problem of using “he” as a universal pronoun. For a time, academic style guides suggested the use of “he or she” or alternating between “he” or “she” in writing. This construction is now acknowledged as being not only clunky and awkward, but exclusionary because to use “he or she” suggests a rigid gender binary, excluding all persons whose gender identities are outside of that binary. Luckily, singular “they,” in use since the 14th century in informal and spoken speech, has started to gain traction as a gender-inclusive pronoun to refer to a person of unknown gender in formal and academic writing. More on the history of singular “they” can be found at the Oxford English Dictionary’s website and Historians.org.
Academic Style Guides adapt slowly to changes in grammar, and like grammar, are socially constructed texts that are constantly in flux. To understand Academic Style Guides’ current and past positions on singular “they” as a gender-neutral unknown referent, it is important to keep in mind that Academic Style Guides do not create grammatical rules. Rather, they establish formal guidelines that follow spoken and grammatical conventions which are set by informal writing and speech. Academic Style Guides are often slow to adopt conventions they might see as temporary. Despite the long history of singular “they” in this usage, which mirrors the grammatical evolution of singular “you,” some style guides have waffled on sanctioning its use.
As of 2021, all three major guides (APA, MLA, and Chicago) acknowledge the ubiquity of singular “they” for use with an unknown referent in informal writing and speech. However, only one of the three guides, the 7th Edition of APA’s Style Guide, fully endorses the use of singular “they” as “a generic third-person singular pronoun to refer to a person whose gender is unknown or irrelevant to the context of usage” (APA, 120). MLA, which leaves grammar largely up to the discretion of the author, neither endorses nor prohibits the use of singular “they” in this sense. As a result, it is acceptable in MLA Style. The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) has a particularly complicated history with singular “they” as a gender-neutral unknown referent. In the 1993 edition, it endorsed “they/their” in this sense (Chicago, 13th Ed. 2.98). However, this was removed from subsequent editions. Though CMOS acknowledges the ubiquity of this usage, it continues to prohibit its use and instead recommends rewriting the sentence in some way that eliminates the need for a pronoun. For more on the history of singular “they” and the Chicago Manual of Style, take a look at this 2017 article written by Cai Fischietto on IU Libraries’ website.
Trans Journalists Association's Style Guide
Merriam-Webster's Words at Play blog on the evolution of singular "they"
Singular "they" is Merriam Webster's 2020 word of the year
Singular "they" is the American Dialect Society's Word of the Decade
IU Libraries 2016 article Academic Style Guides on the Singular Pronoun 'They' by Cai Fischietto
The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition, 5.48
American Psychological Association (APA) Style Guide
Modern Language Association (MLA) Style Guide
2019 Guardian article about the development of gender-neutral writing around the world
While in common parlance the word gender often serves as a kid-friendly synonym for sex, in feminist and academic discussions, the two are often seen as conceptually distinct. A rough and hasty description of the sex-gender distinction might say that sex is a biological given, gender is a social construction, and never the twain shall meet. However, even if we grant the sex-gender distinction (and a number of feminists do reject it for a variety of reasons), it remains far from obvious what, precisely, gender is, what it means for gender to be socially constructed, or what we should make of gender anyway.
Fortunately, feminists and philosophers have recently taken interest in the metaphysics of gender. This LibGuide serves as a selective bibliography on some of the scholarly work being done in this fascinating and important field of inquiry. A companion subject post on this topic is forthcoming.
For introductory material on the philosophy of gender and feminist philosophy, check out these articles from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which also provides extensive bibliographies of their own that are worth exploring:
Additionally, the following bibliography identifies sources (within and without philosophy) on matters pertaining to trans genders, the lived experiences of transfolk, and intersectionality, and should prove a valuable resource for those interested in the metaphysics of gender:
If you'd like to explore this topic further, our library subject research portals are also a good place to get started; among other things, they provide tailored, subject-based lists of research resources:
Sources on the nature of social construction, considered as such or with particular respect to gender:
Sources on the metaphysics of gender:
Sources on feminist metaphysics and the metaphysics of gender vis-à-vis "mainstream" metaphysics: